Beckenridge disappearance case officially shut down

Mike Zhao-Beckenridge
Mike Zhao-Beckenridge Photo credit: File

Police have wrapped up their investigation into the disappearance of John Beckenridge and his stepson Mike Zhao-Beckenridge.

The pair were last seen in the Catlins in March 2015.

Police say several reports came through over the last four years of possible sightings.

"Over the years since the disappearance, and as recently as July 2018 , there have been many reports from members of the public who have seen an elderly Caucasian male in the company of Asian boy, however police have found no evidence to suggest these sightings have been the Beckenridges," says Det Snr Sgt Stu Harvey.

Mike was reported missing by his mother, Fiona Lu, on March 13 after not returning from his lunch break to James Hargest Junior Campus in Invercargill.

What ensued was week of questions with no answers, particularly after Mr Beckenridge's car was found in the sea at the bottom of a cliff in Curio Bay with no human traces.

Tyre tracks leading off the cliff indicated someone was in the car, and it left the ground as it went over the cliff.

Several text messages from the 64-year-old's phone to his estranged wife and solicitor were sent the day before the car was found.

At the time, there were suggestions it was a murder-suicide - but others are of the firm belief the pair are still alive.

The matter has been referred to the coroner.


March 13: Mike Zhao-Beckenridge, 11 at the time, is taken from school by his step-farther John Beckenridge.

March 16: Reported sighting of Mike and Mr Beckenridge in the Catlins by Southland farmers.

March 18: Police appeal to the public for help to find the pair, thought to be travelling in a dark-blue Volkswagen Touareg.

March 22: Car parts and a backpack in the Tokanui and Haldane areas are found washed up on a beach in Curio Bay.

March 23: Police divers attempt to search the Blue Cod Bay area, but conditions are rough.

March 24: Police find vehicle wreckage in Blue Cod Bay.

March 25: The wreckage is confirmed as Mr Beckenridge's Volkswagen Touareg.

April 8: Evidence points to the pair being in the car when it flew off the 88-metre cliff, police say.

May 6: The car is recovered and taken to Bluff by boat

May 18: No human traces are found in the car

April 2015: An unconfirmed sighting of the pair is reported to police


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